Day of the Girl
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD: LET’S STRENGHTEN THEIR VOICE
“Despite the situation, my new life has given me a confidence that I could never have imagined before. I feel I can face everything in life without fear and with dignity.” Kondamma, India
Worldwide, 132 million girls are out of school, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18, more than 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation, of the 40-45 million people who are victims of modern slavery, 71% are women and girls.
Discriminated because they were born female, these girls are exploited sexually, they are victims of modern trafficking and slavery, they are mutilated and forced to become wives and mothers before it’s time – often risking their lives – and they are denied the right to study and build a future without violence.
My family was poor. I went to school but not every day, because I helped my mom in the fields. One day my parents decided to send me to live with an aunt, who had promised to let me study, forcing me to work hard at home instead. I was harassed by her and my cousins.
After two years I managed to return to my parents’ village, but one day a man showed up at my house and he told my parents, in exchange of money, that he would look after me in Dar es Salaam, where I could go to school. Once again I was forced to work hard in different houses and my dream of continuing my studies was more distant by the day.
However, the lady at the last house where I worked was good to me: she accompanied me to the Social Services to find decent accommodation and to allow me to continue my studies. I am going to school now.
I met my current husband while attending a sewing workshop after dropping out of school. When we started sleeping together, I had no idea I was going to get pregnant; I thought it could only happen to adults.
When my parents found out about my pregnancy, they became angry and forced me to move in with him, despite my tears. We had financial difficulties and were unable to go to the clinic for five months.
Today, I am back at my parents’ house and I am the mother to a little girl. I would like to finish the workshop and become a famous seamstress.
If I could go back, I would never make the same mistake again and my advice to my sisters is: study and don’t challenge your parents. To parents, I would like to say: support your children, whatever their situation, because sometimes it is the result of ignorance.
My mother is a Devadasi (women married to deities) and for this I was afraid that I would never find a husband. So, when I was 16, I agreed to get married, but three months after the wedding my father-in-law started abusing me sexually. My husband was aware of this but he ignored my pain and beat me often. My mother told me to be patient and to suffer quietly, but the situation was so bad that I had lost my hopes of a happy life with my husband. Eventually, I found the strength to leave my husband and go back to my mother.
I see no hope for a new marriage. My dream now is to have a home for us. My mother, my sister and I work in the fields.
With the help of Sneha and WeWorld, I took part in a Tailoring Fashion Design Training and started working as a seamstress after buying my first sewing machine. Now I sew clothes for women and children.
Covid-19 has made things difficult for us because we have lost our seasonal work wages. Despite the situation, my new single life has given me a confidence that I could never have imagined before. I feel I can face everything in life without fear and with dignity.
“Devadasis “, from Sanskrit “servant of God “, are girls who are dedicated to deities through marriage. As a result, they have duties such as dancing and providing sexual services to temple priests and the male community. Devadasis, who often belong to certain social groups, are considered inferior and their sexual exploitation is socially accepted. It is a structured system of oppression and violation of human rights well rooted in the country’s caste system.
I really love my father, but he thought of circumcision as the only way to prepare me for my future life. I opposed and managed to avoid circumcision and lived, for years. in a religious reception center, where I continued to study.
I have been discriminated because I am not circumcised, other girls look at me as a child because girls are belived to become women only after they are circumcision. The women of my village refer to me as “the uncircumcised girl” and my father is mocked by his peers. This is why he began to criticize and mistreat my mother and my sister. When I told my mother that I was coming home, she refused to le me go home, so I stayed at the center until the end of the school.
I started advocating (against mutilation) in my class and I haven’t stopped since. There are many cases of little girls, including cousins of mine, who died during mutilations.
What you can do
We work in many countries around the world to protect and guarantee girls’rights, protect them from abuse and violence and promote their empowerment. With our projects, many girls return to school – no longer forced to work, marry and become mothers before it’s time – where they become aware of their rights and can build a better future.
Tackiling violence against girls requires cultural revolutions that focus on girls’ rights and needs.
To achieve this, individual actions are as important as collective ones. Here is what you can do to give a voice to girls around the world and help them change their lives:
1. Inform yourself
2. Listen to what they have to say
3. Raise awareness of this topic among people around you
4. Support their right to education and help overcome stereotypes
5. Support projects of organisations like ours
6. Don’t be a bystander if you witness violence against girls. Contact the nearest authority or association that can protect them. Fight sexual exploitation of girls, even sex tourism with a teenager is a crime. Don’t do it and stop other people too.